graphic swirl

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Featuring Kris Farmen's work from the upcoming book,"Weathered Edge"

Excerpt from the novella, EDGE OF SOMEWHERE
by KRIS FARMEN

The details of Charlie’s shark attack got exaggerated quite a bit, as these things often do. Charlie was never certain where or when he regained consciousness because the shreds of his recollection didn’t quite mesh with the open windows of his memory of the incident. For example, when the images picked up again he was sprawled into the open door of his car, wrapping every piece of clothing he could find—t-shirts, towels, underwear—around him as a makeshift bandage and strapping it all down with duct tape. This would have been an awkward arrangement at the best of times, but as it was, the blood was making his hands slippery and he could feel the meat of his muscles waggling in and out with every movement he made. He was cold and shaking and felt like he was about to collapse or start vomiting. Perhaps both.

Strangely, he was fully cognizant that he was in shock and he knew he should get down on the ground and put his legs up, but he was panicked about the amount of blood he’d lost and knew his time was limited, to say the least.

Somehow he got himself into the driver’s seat and started the engine. He could barely move his right arm, and his left leg was slow to respond, which made it tricky working the clutch. He gritted his teeth and made it happen, even though he screamed at the pain each time he shifted. The closest town that was likely to have a hospital was Geraldton, two hours away over rough dirt roads, then up the Brand Highway.

He made it about fifteen minutes, weaving over the road like a drunk. The blackness seemed to envelop him from the back edges of his vision, like a cone closing over him. He held on as long as he could but eventually his foot slipped from the gas pedal and he coasted to a stop in the middle of the road with his head slumped over the wheel. The engine stalled, leaving only empty desert silence and the croak of a nearby raven.

But not for nothing is Australia called the lucky country. Barely five minutes later, two surfers in a Toyota Landcruiser pickup came jouncing over the corrugated dirt road, raising a plume of bulldust behind them. These were local lads from Port Denison who had chucked a sickie, in the idiom of the country, when they heard the surf report. The wind was wrong for the breaks closer to town, so they pointed the ute north up the coast for Mallees.

Franko Cavanaugh was at the wheel and had just cracked his third beer of the drive when Tom Shultz, better known as Shultzie, raised his own can of lager inside its neoprene cozy and pointed to the station wagon skewed across the road up ahead. The road was straight as a gun barrel and they had plenty of time to study the situation as they approached, but all they could come up with was that maybe the driver had wandered away to take a leak and figured nobody else would be on the road, not an unreasonable assumption given the very light traffic on the desert tracks of the region.

It was only when Franko downshifted and the ute shuddered to a stop over the washboards next to the open driver’s window that they saw the man collapsed over the steering wheel.

“Bugger me!” said Shultzie, throwing open his door and racing around the truck’s grille. Franko was already out and crouched down, gently shaking the driver.

“Mate,” he said. “Mate, what happened?” Charlie was breathing but not conscious.

Shultzie hunkered down beside the open door. “Jesus, look at him.”

They couldn’t make heads or tails of the blood-stained clothing and tape that covered his torso until Franko gently lifted one of the bandages and saw the wet gaping meat wound. Then Shultzie held up a surf wax wrapper he found in the door pocket and Franko saw the others that were stuffed into the console behind the gearshift, and it dawned on them what must have happened.

Charlie whispered something.

“Hey?” said Shultzie. “Say it again.”

Charlie’s voice was barely audible over the raven’s long, drawn-out cries, but they both caught the single syllable that came from his lips with a bubble of blood.

“Shark.”

Part of Charlie’s luck that day was that both these individuals were trained paramedics with the Western Australia Volunteer Fire and Rescue Service. They got him out of the Holden and into the tray of the ute where Franko unrolled both their swags for cushioning. Shultzie rode in the tray next to Charlie, administering treatment for shock and applying a blanket for additional bandaging as Franko wheeled them around and raced down a local cutoff track toward Geraldton.

Charlie Deacon of course survived, though just barely. His right shoulder had been dislocated and both his lungs were punctured by broken ribs. The doctors said he’d lost more than half the blood in his body. Then there were the lacerations. It took more than three hundred stitches to put him back together. The official medical opinion was that it was a miracle he’d survived, aided considerably by the fortuitous arrival of the mullet-haired Shultzie and Franko.

They were hailed as local heroes, and quite rightly so. When reporters from Perth asked about the incident, they said any Aussie would have done the same and that they required no more compensation for the rescue than a cold beer and the knowledge that they’d helped a fellow surfer in need.
After that it was mostly just media hoopla, but then you probably heard about it on the news.

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